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5 Friday Faves – Holy Week, Gracious Forbearance, Notre Dame, Funerals, and Irises & Azaleas

Another weekend is here. This has been one of those “where did the week go?”. Now for a couple of days of gathering in…thoughts, family, and routines. Here are this week’s faves:

1) Holy Week – For many in the world, this is the holiest of weeks in the calendar year. It commemorates the last 7-8 days of the earthly life of Jesus Christ. They are/were stunningly remarkable days and, whatever one believes, should be noted for their historic and transformative significance. Thanks to great resources, I’ve written about each individual day. You’ll find them below:

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Restores the Temple to a House of Prayer – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm…and We Worship – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration & His Last Supper Before the Cross – Deb Mills

Jesus & Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 8 – He Is Risen! – Resurrection Sunday – Deb Mills

2) Gracious Forbearance – Professors and writers Marilyn McEntyre and Matt Towles have both written beautifully and expansively on forbearance and I quote them below. Forbearance is defined as “bearing with, suffering with, a refraining from the enforcement of something that is due (such as a debt, right, or obligation). It involves lenience and patience. It is NOT “putting up with” or “just tolerating”.

Photo Credit: Circus Kitchen

When it is true forbearing, it is gracious. We could use a lot of this in our social media presence as well as in our face-to-face with those we don’t necessarily choose but seem to be providentially chosen for us. Gracious forbearance is what we receive from God as his scruffy, willful followers and He expects us to be forbearing with each other. Whether you believe in God this way or not, thoughtfully considering being forbearing (especially with those you would rather put off or out of your life) is a beautiful thing.

“What unites us is God’s own infinitely merciful will. What divides us are digressions and misunderstandings, competing alliances, and political and theological arguments that can be resolved rightly only by a generous, patient, humble, wise, deliberative commitment to continue living with the quarrelsome, myopic lot who are our brothers and sisters, and among whom we must count ourselves.” – Marilyn McEntyre

“Forbearance requires and teaches humility; it fosters authentic hope rather than self-interested expectations; in practicing it we develop discernment, which “sees disagreement not as a problem to be solved but as an opportunity for maturation in the faith”; it encourages faithfulness not primarily to tenets or doctrinal specifics but to the pilgrim path we travel in relationship to those members of Christ’s body among whom we happen to find ourselves. In that body—the beloved community we know as church—we find friendships that don’t arise solely from our predilections and affections, but from deep recognition of what we hold closest and dearest, and in common.”Marilyn McEntyre

In Praise of Forbearance – Marilyn McEntyre

“The locus of our faith is in the resurrected Christ, but the evidence of our faith is found, quite often, in how we interact with one another. We should not wonder, then, that there may be times when the pain of someone else becomes the focus of our ministry for that hour, that day, or even that season. We serve a risen Christ whose body carried the horrors of the cross in addition to the horrors of humanity. It’s no wonder that we ourselves might recognize the pain that each of us carries. We know how to pray and to serve and to carry those burdens. I know my wife knows, because she has learned from the man acquainted with grief, Jesus himself.”Matt Towles

Gracious Forbearance – Matt Towles

“We don’t have a map, but we have a guide: “I am the way,” Jesus said, calling his followers not to a particular route, but to an enduring relationship. “Follow me” is always a somewhat disconcerting directive; we may well wonder, as the disciples did, “Where to?” Sometimes the answer to that might be into the quagmire or the cave or thicket or labyrinth. Sometimes it means into the meeting room where tepid coffee is being served and a lengthy agenda distributed among a group of elders deeply at odds. The promise that can make such a gathering an occasion of grace is presence: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ In light of that presence—in the divine light of that presence—we may find ourselves able, with grace and good humour and a measure of forbearance, to do far more than “put up with” one another: we may find ourselves, in the midst of deep differences, dwelling already in unity.” – Marilyn McEntyre

Thank you, Dr. McEntyre and Dr. Towles. I learned so much from you this week. I live each day in God’s gracious forbearance…and in that of so many He has generously placed in my life.

3) Notre Dame – The devastating fire in Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral earlier this week gave pause to many of us. A structure over 850 years old is still vulnerable… As the cause for the fire was investigated, we were reminded of the deliberate burnings of other churches in our own country. As news reports came in that many of the icons and artifacts were saved, including the stained glass windows remaining intact, we were astonished and relieved.

Then those of us who had visited this beautiful cathedral scrambled to find our pictures, and social media was jammed with those images. Ours were from a 25th anniversary trip to Paris.

Why is this a fave? The response of so many from around the world… and that so much was still spared. It will be rebuilt, no doubt.

4) Funerals – This may seem an odd choice for a Friday Fave, but all my life, I have been fascinated (and touched) by the rituals surrounding dying and death. From early childhood, my mom told me that I loved cemeteries, and I still do. My friend Marc Merlin has taken some beautiful pictures of one of my favorite cemeteries, Oakland Cemetery.Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia

[Dad at his family cemetery (his mom and dad’s grave), May 3, 2010]

Our mom’s funeral – at graveside, November 2002

More than cemeteries though, I am enamored by the impact of a funeral reflecting the life of the one who died. Just this week, I went to the funeral of a tiny woman who had left a huge imprint on her community. The funeral was held in her small country church. Family and friends packed the church to give honor to this woman beloved by so many. I think she would have been pleased to see and hear all that went into her send-off.

When Dave’s dad died this year, one of his cousins (who lost his dad last year) pulled him aside and gave him good counsel. He said to give him a good funeral, one that was worthy of his dad.

It is so easy, in our grief and exhaustion, to just let the funeral be directed by others (the funeral director, for instance). We can do much of the planning way in advance of a loved one’s death. In fact, the little lady above planned all the details of her own funeral… except, of course, the spontaneous tributes given during the service. It was lovely.

Funerals can be so expensive, and that is the part I’d love to see curtailed. However, the best parts – the personal touches that help us grieve together and help us heal after – we can make happen.

Dave’s mom said his dad would have been embarrassed by all the kind words said about him…so, I guess, we did right by him.

6 Funeral Trends That Are Changing Death Rituals – Leanne Pott

“We’ve Mastered Weddings – But the Funeral Needs a Lot of Work”: Inside the New Death Industry – Vanessa Quirk

5) Irises & Azaleas – It’s that time of year here. The first irises blooming. The azalea bushes coming into full flower. Even the rain today couldn’t diminish the glory.

Happy weekend. Happy Easter! He is risen…He is risen indeed!

Bonuses:

The Equation That Will Make You Better at Everything – Brad Stulberg

How to Improve Your Memory (Even if You Can’t Find Your Car Keys) – Adam Grant

A Stoic’s Key to Living with Presence: Seneca on Balancing the Existential Calculus of Time Spent, Saved, and Wasted – Maria Popova

Pascha Basket for Easter

5 Friday Faves – Recovering from Surgery: Cheerleaders & Caregivers, Glimpses of Beauty, Words Fitly Spoken, Comfort Foods, and Sports Movie Speeches

Blog - Friday Faves

10 days ago was the last time I posted a blog until right now. It was the day of my surgery. My surgeon decided the time had come to lay to rest exactly what was this little nodule – this incidental finding that has persisted now 6 months. He assured me that it is either “nothing or early”.  Hours later I would discover that it wasn’t nothing but it was early. Stage 1 cancer. He did that “gold standard” surgery to remove what was necessary to lead to cure. Now my job is to heal…from the reality of the diagnosis and the protracted recovery time (from days originally to weeks/months now).

This week’s Friday Faves relate to these days of recovery thus far. It’s an open letter of thanks for the great and many graces of God through all those He brings across our paths in times of pain and weakness. I have been much changed by this experience and by the kindnesses given to one unable to give back. Thank God. Thank God for you.

1) Cheerleaders and Caregivers – What would we do without those persons in our lives who step in, extend a hand, share a truth, or just steady our particular rocking boat? My close nurse friend, Kathy Visneski, coached me through this recovery business, from her vacation on the beach. She didn’t have to…that’s just who she is and what she does. Over the last 10 days, I have had so many strangers, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family members come near in this experience with me. It’s reminded me of Kara Tippetts‘ book Just Show Up. We all bring different giftings, different strengths into this arena. In particular, Dave, this husband of mine, has juggled well his work, his chores and mine at home, and all the many extra demands that recovery has made on both of us. Thank you, Dave. Thanks, Kathy. Thank you all.Dave April 2016

2) Glimpses of Beauty Beyond the Pain – I’m not a “cut flower” kind of woman. They seem so extravagant…that is, until the day comes, when pain stabs you through the chest and you don’t want to get out of bed. Then a bouquet of irises, roses, and hydrangea show up from a friend states away. She said, in the card, that she knew the irises would remind me of my mom and would be an added comfort. She was right. Other flower arrangements would follow and would turn our living room into a quiet garden where I would begin healing. Beauty to rest my eyes.Blog - Hospital - Irises

3) Words Fitly Spoken – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11 We sometimes silence ourselves for fear of not saying the right thing or not knowing what to say. My bias is that lots of grace should be given those who try to fill the awkward places between people with whatever words they can find. For me, words haven’t come so easily in these days of dealing with a cancer diagnosis, even caught in the earliest of stages. I’ve had some of the kindest words spoken over me in these days. One friend, visiting shortly after I came home, said something like, “Debbie Mills down?! No way!” It was my sentiment and confusion exactly. I’m fairly tough, resilient. This surgery and aftermath have humbled me in such a way as to remember that “when I am weak, God is strong in me”. We want to be able to say that to others in need…living it is a whole other thing. I’m discovering the faithfulness of God in a way I would never have sought out before.

 Along with all the voiced encouragements, I’ve received some beautiful cards. How kind of people to still go out and search for an appropriate card and either take the time to drop it by or send it in the mail to arrive providentially. The card below came on a hard day when recovery seemed to be going very slowly. It was perfect.

2016 June - Greeting Card - Turtle after surgery - Getting There 0012016 June - Greeting Card - Turtle after surgery - Getting There 002

4) Comfort Foods – A side effect of the pain and weakness seems to be this loss of appetite. Never before have I just not wanted to eat anything… Nothing sounded good. Not even my daily cup of coffee delight in the morning. I’ve lost 8 pounds since surgery. Then one night this week a friend brought over a chicken almond casserole. I ate some in a little bowl, nestled in my “sickbed”, and it was actually very good. Since that night, my appetite has been coming around.

Unforgettable Chicken CasserolePhoto Credit: Mr. Food

Yesterday, something made me think of Biscoff cookies, a crisp spice cookie offered to travelers on Delta Airlines. I told my daughter and she remembered some she had in her cupboard, a gift from her mom-in-law. She brought them over, and this morning, I had my first full cup of coffee with two of these lovely cookies. Returning to normal.
Blog - Comfort food - coffee and Biskoff Cookies

5) Sports Movie Speeches –
My normally short attention span is even worse in these days since surgery. Reading the briefest of passages in the Bible or a book is about all I can handle. Except for TV. It is definitely a medium that can be taken in completely passively (not that I recommend it because of that). In these days of moving from loveseat to sofa to recliner, with my phone and TV remote tucked under my pillow, watching movies has helped me to be occasionally distracted from my situation. This week, I saw the 2004 football film Friday Night Lights. Near the end of the film, Coach Gaines, gives the most inspiring half-time speech to his weary, busted-up team, two quarters away from winning or losing their state championship. See the clip here. Blog - Friday Night Lights - sports movie speech - fanspeakPhoto Credit: FanSpeak

There is another YouTube video of the Top 10 Sports Movie Speeches. Sure these speeches aren’t always full of truth and all are colored by the pop culture of that film setting. Still, when you are down and not sure what it will take to get up again, inspiration is a very good thing. [Honestly the most inspirational, deeply resonate “speeches” were spoken by Jesus to his followers in strange and stretching situations. I am one of those…inspired by Him now.].

Well…that’s my Friday Faves – being posted on a Saturday. The first time I’ve written since before the surgery 10 days ago. I hope to write more about what this surgery and diagnosis are teaching me but all that is in process right now.  If you have any stories, links to inspiring speeches, recipes for comfort foods, or whatever you’re stirred to share, please do so below in the comments. ,Thank you for showing up here…in this time of my life. You encourage me…and one day, maybe I will have the opportunity to encourage you. It is my desire…Blog - Debbie - Home from the Hospital

One day….the beach.

Blog - Ocean, Sky, Sun - Kathryn VisneskiPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

5 Friday Faves – krueTV, Irises, Employee Trends, Alzheimer’s Caregivers, and the Promises of God

Blog - Friday Faves

Whew! Another Friday…looking forward to a weekend of family time, friend visits, church community, a baby shower and child’s birthday party…and still a bit of space. Space is part of what we love about Friday’s, right? Some space in the week when we can breathe deep and re-calibrate. Hope you find that in your weekend.

Here are my faves this week:

  1. krueTV – New phone app which allows you to listen in and interact with musicians live (in real time). Of course, my favorite musician on krueTV is Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. You can follow him and many others by downloading the app free. Listen in. Chat with the musicians. Enjoy!Blog - KrueTVPhoto Credit: krueTV Blog - Nathan Mills - krueTV
  2. Irises – My favorite flowers are irises and they are blooming now. Mom grew irises in our yard. They signaled the coming of summer and the end of the school year. When we sold our parents’ home a couple of years ago, one of their granddaughters, Stephanie, did the loving work of transplanting some of those irises into her yard. I regret not doing that myself. Glad she did! Here’s one: Blog - Iris of Mom's in Stephanie's yard Irises growing in our yard are thanks to the previous owner and sweet neighbors who shared them with us…and the loving care given by my husband, Dave (probably loving me more than the care of the irises…I’m grateful for both – the love and the irises).2016 April - Phone pics - Blog, Irises, (3)2016 April - Phone pics - Blog, Irises, (5)2016 April - Phone Pics, Blog, Sadie, Georgia, Papa, Irises 3872016 April - Phone pics - Blog, Irises, (1)
  3. Employee Trends – This Infographic on current and future employee trends was fascinating and helpful to me. I love infographics – not sure how much to believe them, but the visual representation of information is a great aid for remembering. This infographic speaks to trends in the workplace in 2016 – including what’s happening with the various generations at work now, automation, maternity leave, work space, and flexibility of hours/availability of employees. There is also a trend that employees who previously left a company (boomerang employees) are being accepted back more now – which is a positive trend for all of us.Blog - The Biggest Workplace employee trendsPhoto Credit: TakeItPersonnelly
  4. Alzheimer’s Caregivers  – I am so thankful for caregivers who daily extend themselves to our loved ones with Alzheimer’s. My dad has Alzheimer’s and currently lives in an assisted living/memory care unit. Between family, friends/pastor, hospice workers, and unit staff, he is well-loved. Having visited him recently and spending hours among the residents, all of whom have some sort of dementia, I marvel at the tenacity of caring of those in his life. It means a lot to him, I’m sure, whether he can acknowledge it or not…and it means the world to us.Blog - Caregivers 2Blog - CaregiversBlog - Caregivers 3
  5. Promises of God – Promises are not to be given or taken lightly. My children never heard me say, “I promise”, because what if I couldn’t deliver? Only God is ever able to always deliver on His promises. That’s what makes them so precious. They are true and trustworthy, because He is.  He is the God who comes near to His children. He, in fact, never leaves us or forsakes us. In a world full of flux and unsettling change, it is a deep comfort to know that God does not change. He is steadfast in love and character and He keeps His word…always. God’s promises are found throughout the Bible – you can find lists of them here, here, and here. What promises do you lean on in those hard days? Blog - Promises of God - sharefaithPhoto Credit: ShareFaithBlog - Promises of God - kzlam36Photo Credit: kzlam36Blog - God's Promises - searchquotesPhoto Credit: SearchQuotes

Hope you have a weekend full of the things that give you joy but with space to rest, reflect, and refresh as well. Would love to know some of your favorites of this week (in comments, below). Happy Friday!

No Small Kindness – Flowers from Her Yard – a Gift from a Stranger

Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt 2

For a year, we rented a small house in a tidy neighborhood. It was easy to walk the neighborhood and I knew the yards well. When April came, this one yard in particular became my favorite.  The owner had the most beautiful garden of bearded, purple-blue irises. They are my favorite flower, because they remind me of my Mom. She had so many in our yard from the time I was a child. Just seeing those irises made my heart glad – from the days of closed bud, through the glory of full bloom, and even past their splendor. I loved those days of walks past that house.

Then I met the owner. Her name is Liz. She turned into her driveway one day when my daughter and I had been walking but were presently lingering in front of her house. I must have taken a hundred pictures of those irises during that growing season. Liz told me the story of how her dad was a botanist and he planted the irises years before. He and my mom would have liked each other, I’m sure.

Liz and I would only meet that one day. I told her we were preparing to move. We had bought a house (our house now) and we would be moving within a couple of weeks. I thanked her for the pure pleasure her garden of irises had brought me during that April and early May.

Then she did a quite remarkable thing. She said, “I’m planning to thin the beds alongside my house, so if you want them, they’re yours.” Of course, I wanted them! We exchanged phone numbers, and when the irises were past their season, she would call me, and I could come get them.Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt

She didn’t forget me.

One Sunday, after we had moved, she called me and said they were ready for me. She had them dug up, separated from each other and gathered in garbage bags. I picked them up from the curb because she would be napping, she said on the phone.

My husband planted them in our yard, in a sunny spot. It’s been many years since we’ve had a garden, and we had little experience with irises. We weren’t sure what would happen come the next April…but we hoped they would thrive in our yard as they did in Liz’s.

As Spring lengthened this year, those irises woke from their winter sleep, in this very new place. The foliage was beautiful alone yet we weren’t sure blooms would develop. A few have, actually and I was waiting for the debut of those sentimental flowers. Yesterday evening, I was visiting a friend, and my phone signaled a text message.  Dave sent me this photo: Blog - Iris in my yard 3

The first of those irises bloomed in our yard! Almost a year had passed from the day I met Liz. Still, I called her to tell her the good news. She remembered me. I thanked her again for that generous gift she shared with me. Flowers from her yard. This stranger and friend. Today she was suffering from the allergies so common here in spring with the yellow pine pollen that settles everywhere. One day, we agreed, we will meet again.

What she did for me that day about a year ago was no small kindness. This stranger shared a bit of her life with me, and now that bit flourishes in my life…in my yard, and in my heart. The kindness of a stranger – so unexpected and so captivating. It’s one of the many kindnesses of strangers I’ve known in life across continents. It’s no small thing.

“If I look back at my life, the sweet small kindnesses of strangers are pivotal and really combine to help shape my world view – and they probably have no idea.” – Debra Smith

“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.”  – Mary Anne Radmacher

Blog - Irises in Steph's yardSome of Mom’s irises transplanted in my niece Stephanie’s yard

Finally, Spring

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 027“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”Hosea 6:3

Our first March in this house, and we are surrounded by the gray, brown, and dark green of winter. After the cold dreariness of winter, you wonder if Spring will ever come. Then, the miracle of life unseen, nurtured somehow under the topsoil, unfolds itself pushing through to the sun. With the melting of our last winter snow, came the first flowers…as if by magic. 2015 March Downton American Idol  Trip to Georgia  Papa 099 (2)

This time of year is such a mystery and a marvel to me. For months, the ground is gray-brown, seemingly barren. Dead. Dormant. Then the first signs of life, and each day more pop up, heralding another Spring. A picture in nature of the faithfulness of God – “as certain as the dawn”.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0012015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0022015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 011Most of the green shoots appearing right now we didn’t plant. The last homeowner left us a beautiful garden that we now tend and make our own. Dave, the resident gardener who is my husband, has an idea of what all these plants are. For me, it’s enough that they are growing, inches a day, with the promise of flowers soon. It’s part of the wonder of Spring: what all must happen underground to yield all the green we see now, and the amazing colors we will soon see.

Dave did plant irises for us last June – they were a gift from our neighbor, Liz, who has a yard full of purple-blue, bearded irises. These remind me of my mom’s yard. She loved irises and I love them because of her. 2014 May Flowers 004These iris shoots are coming up, and whether they bloom this year or not…just seeing them has given me that springtime hopefulness.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 028

When we lived all those years in Morocco, Spring came early. By March, the temperate winter weather and soaking rains had already produced fields of flowers. We had pots of flowers on our apartment balcony all year round. I miss Morocco…and the glory of those early Springs.2006 March -- Boys at full size

Here, we plant in our gray-brown garden beds in March, trusting that just like with crocuses, daffodils, irises, and daisies of Springs before, we will watch seeds and bulbs do what they are created to do…grow and grow and grow.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 033

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 015

We moved into this house the end of May last year. After living for decades in city apartments and rented houses, this was our first summer to enjoy a yard of our own. It was so beautiful, and we look forward to the return of all those flowers from last year. We will not wish one day away from Spring, though. Finally, it has arrived.2014 May Flowers 0212014 May Flowers 0432014 May Flowers 0372014 June - Visits with Friends 013 (2)